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J Biol Chem. 1998 Sep 18;273(38):24583-91.

Mechanisms of spectral tuning in blue cone visual pigments. Visible and raman spectroscopy of blue-shifted rhodopsin mutants.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Laboratory of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York 10021, USA.


Spectral tuning by visual pigments involves the modulation of the physical properties of the chromophore (11-cis-retinal) by amino acid side chains that compose the chromophore-binding pocket. We identified 12 amino acid residues in the human blue cone pigment that might induce the required green-to-blue opsin shift. The simultaneous substitution of nine of these sites in rhodopsin (M86L, G90S, A117G, E122L, A124T, W265Y, A292S, A295S, and A299C) shifted the absorption maximum from 500 to 438 nm, accounting for 2,830 cm-1, or 80%, of the opsin shift between rhodopsin and the blue cone pigment. Raman spectroscopy of mutant pigments shows that the dielectric character and architecture of the chromophore-binding pocket are specifically altered. An increase in the number of dipolar side chains near the protonated Schiff base of retinal increases the ground-excited state energy gap via long range dipole-dipole Coulomb interaction. In addition, the W265Y substitution causes a decrease in solvent polarizability near the chromophore ring structure. Finally, two substitutions on transmembrane helix 3 (A117G and E122L) act in combination with the other substitutions to alter the binding-pocket structure, resulting in stronger interaction of the protonated Schiff base group with the surrounding dipolar groups and the counterion. Taken together, these results identify the amino acid side chains and the underlying physical mechanisms responsible for a majority of the opsin shift in blue visual pigments.

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